Housing Assistance for Low Income Families

As a result of the Great Depression, the Federal Government created a housing assistance program in the 1930's to help families struggling with a low income. These programs were the beginning of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the government agency that continues to mange these and similar programs today.

Since its beginning, additional programs have been added to help promote the construction of low income housing as well as to help those considered low income subsidize their rent.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 was passed by Congress in an effort to help low income families subsidize their rent payments. Known as the Section 8 Program, this program subsidizes rent payments by requiring individuals and families to only dedicate 30 percent of their income to their rent payment. Anything over the 30 percent mark is paid to the landlord by the federal government.

When it first began in 1974, the Section 8 Program had three subcategories: New Construction, Substantial Rehabilitation, and Existing Housing. In 1978, the category for Moderate Rehabilitation was added. In 1983 a Voucher Program was added, and then in 1991 a Project Based Certificate Program was added to the categories. Each of these categories determine if the landlord qualifies to participate in the Section 8 Program.

Section 8 Housing is regulated under the housing authority of each state. The number of units that are available are based on the funding that the housing authority receives. Programs and budgets continually change in each state, however Congress has been good about renewing funding for subsidies that have already been granted.

The Housing Voucher Program is very unique and is designed to assist those who are considered very low income, elderly or disabled. This program was designed to help those with the most limited sources of income find clean and safe housing and ensure that it is affordable. Since the recipients of the vouchers must find their own residence to live, the vouchers can be used on single family homes, apartments or townhomes, whichever best fits the need of the recipient.

Eligibility requirement for the Voucher Program are determined by the Housing Authority. Requirements are based on total gross annual income and family size. U.S. citizens and non-citizens with eligible immigration status are the only people that can apply for this program.

The application process is very thorough, and the Housing Authority will verify all income, assets, family members claimed on the application and immigration status while reviewing the application. Employers, banks, and family members will be contacted and interviewed. This research is necessary to determine if you qualify for the program and to determine the amount of the subsidy that you would receive.

The Voucher Program is in very high demand. If you are approved for the program, it is most likely that you will be placed on a waiting list until such a time that funds become available. This is common in almost every area of the country. Once the funds have become available, you will be contacted by the Housing Authority and a voucher will be issued.

The Housing Authority has the right to move some people to the top of the waiting list based on the situation that they are in at the time of their application. Some of these reasons include:

Family is homeless or is living in dangerous, substandard housing
Is paying out more than 50 percent of their gross income for rent
Has been involuntarily displaced from their home

These preferences are based on local demand and need and qualifications will vary from state to state and by the different local Housing Authorities
The housing that is selected by recipients must meet all the requirements of the Housing Authority for safety and sanitation. Landlords must submit their properties for inspection by the local housing authority to make sure that they comply. If the housing is approved, the voucher will be granted.

Landlords are not required to accept Section 8 Program vouchers. Some decline because they do not like to work with federal agencies, while others are just unaware of how the program works so they avoid participation. Recipients of the voucher must verify that the landlord is willing to accept Section 8 Program vouchers.

The Housing Authority dedicates a lot of its resources to fraud control. It is very important that you keep in contact with the Housing Authority if there are any changes to your income levels or the size of your family. Failure to report changes could result in the family losing their subsidy.

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